Charleston County School District releases cost of report on Gethers case

Charleston County School District releases cost of report on Gethers case
The Charleston County School District says it spent more than $16,000 on a report about its handling of the Marvin Gethers case in 2014. (Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District released the full cost Thursday of an independent report about a former district employee accused of sexually assaulting students and who was promoted despite accusations of having child porn on his district-issued laptop.

CCSD paid a total of $16,386.01 for the report about the Marvin Gethers case. The district hired attorney Wilbur Johnson to investigate the district’s handling of the case in 2014.

Live 5 News began asking about the costs associated with the report as soon as Johnson was hired, then formally requested the costs in October. In November, the CCSD said the cost would not be released, citing attorney-client privilege.

The report was presented to the CCSD School Board during executive session on Nov. 12 but was not initially released to the public and board members said they were not allowed to take a copy of the report with them.

On Jan. 17, Live 5 News received a copy of the full report through a Freedom of Information Act request that was initially denied but later approved for release by district Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait. Postlewait, who was not the Superintendent of CCSD at the time, promised the investigation would be transparent.

The report gives a timeline of events based on interviews and depositions with decision makers who were willing to be part of the attorney’s investigation into the case.

Marvin Gethers (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)
Marvin Gethers (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)

The district hired Johnson to investigate its handling of the Gethers case after concerns came to light following a Live 5 News investigation in August. While police were investigating child porn found on employee Marvin Gethers’ laptop in January 2014, he was not suspended or fired, the investigation found.

In fact, he was allowed to return to his position at Dunston Elementary School shortly after the discovery of the alleged child porn and was eventually offered a new position as a parent advocate on Oct. 24, 2014, according to Gethers’ personnel file.

The North Charleston Police Department did not complete its forensic investigation of Gether’s district-issued laptop until January 2016, roughly two years after the alleged child pornography had been discovered by a district IT employee, the report stated. When the forensic investigation was complete and determined the computer had been used to access child pornography, Gethers was arrested on Jan. 20, 2016, and was fired by the school district two days later, the report stated.

The report detailed a series of emails between Gethers and school and district workers, including James Winbush, the associate superintendent with jurisdiction over Dunston Elementary. The report also stated Winbush had acknowledged loaning Gethers money at some point and included an excerpt of an email from Winbush to Gethers in which Winbush allegedly asked, “What happened to our trust?”

On Feb. 4, 2016, Gethers was arrested a second time and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct of a minor and first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. After his second arrest, Gethers withdrew the appeal of his termination.

“Those involved with with knowledge of the events and with decision making authority, managed the situation differently than a similar situation would currently be handled,” Johnson wrote. “Currently, any employee found to have accessed any pornography on a district device will be terminated – immediately.”

The report stressed there was no evidence that the Charleston County School Board or its superintendent at the time, Dr. Nancy McGinley, were notified about the Gethers case.

In December, Postlewait apologized for the district’s handling of the case, adding that the decision-makers in place at the time were no longer with the district.

“It is the opinion of the current CCSD administration that Mr. Gethers should not have been allowed to return to work. He should not have received a promotion. He should not have been honored as the employee of the year,” Postlewait said in part.

In January, a 58-page lawsuit was filed against CCSD leaders who were in charge in 2014 by a third young boy who claims he was molested multiple times by Gethers when he was 7-years-old and went to Dunston Elementary. The student’s mother claims she talked to her son and asked about Gethers after seeing the Live 5 News investigation.

The district’s 35-page response to the suit states its staff did not know the extent of the pornography on Gethers’ computer and denies negligence on the part of the district. The response seeks to have the claims against the district dismissed and requests a jury trial.

Attorneys representing the family of the latest alleged victim say they have been contacted by additional people who claim to have been molested by Gethers.

Gethers died on July 13, 2017, before he could be tried on the charges, which he vigorously denied prior to his death.

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